Everybody loves getting up at 4 right? Especially when its freezing outside, and especially when you find that you’ve left your window open and it’s not yet late enough to have warmed up. Woke up to find that the pick up time was quarter of an hour later than planned. So good to get these updates at midnight before races. Even given this extra time I still managed to leave too late. Twice counting for going back for sunglasses. Having moaned about how early it was, there is something amazing about being out just after sunrise when no one else is and it’s that odd light that’s so different to sunset. Following tradition and reputation in equal measure, I arrived seven minutes late. Luckily the bus was also seven minutes late so it worked better than expected. And for an extra bonus, my bike is now on the bus with me so James can ride along side us as we lose our races. In my favour is the fact that I may be able to get a lift home without riding. Better than walking like last time.
06:49. We have now arrived. It’s far too early and the centre hasn’t yet opened properly. Also perhaps more pressingly the boats are still to arrive. arriving early and waiting a while makes waking up early feel so much more bearable.
07:16. Still no boats. Drivers have resorted to synchronized doughnuts. Only they failed miserably and ended up driving round in circles.
07:44. Still no boats. Now resorted to discussing finer points of Lady GaGa and trying, with a comparable degree of success, to wheel spin the bus.
08:01. People are now trying to push the bus. People are getting in kit in the hope of saving time when the boats do finally arrive.
08:10. We have boats! I enjoy waking up really early so that I can wait for an hour and a bit at the other end.
10:00. First race over, and for once we’re through. Slight panics over lack of coxes and official warnings aside it went quite well. It turns out telling the cox that they’re coxing is a good idea and boating at the time our race is supposed to start is not. We got off the start well and settled into a good rhythm, albeit at 30. The blades were set up for the eight and as we had no clams, they were far too heavy. Despite all our forearms seizing, we held it to finish third. Not hugely impressive but it was enough to qualify for the final which is all that matters at this stage. It was also quite enjoyable watching the so-called ‘A’ boat fail to qualify in their heat (in a time 7 seconds slower than ours, we would still have qualified in theirs). Sorted.
12:54. We only went and won. Possibly due to being in contention and winning but I honestly think that was the best 2k piece I have done. The start was quick and by the 250m mark we were through most of the crews and level with another. From there our stride took us almost immediately to one of the most relaxed rhythms down at rate 31/32. By 500m down mark we were leading by half a length or so and just sat on it for the rest of the race. The other crews would put a push in and claw back a couple of seats but as a crew we’d respond and pull out again. In the final 750m, Rob Roy (a Cambridge club) started coming through but a slightly higher effort from within the boat and the same strong relaxed rhythm held them off. We finished ~1.3s up (about a canvas – half-length). Perfect race really, entirely to plan. We landed (in the loosest sence of the word, described by the commentator as “best race of the day with the worst landing”) on the side of the lake for our handshake and pots, before spinning and heading back to the landing stage. Perhaps the best part of the win was seeing the rest of the club in a state of mild disbelief as we got off the water.
16:23. It looks like we’re through to the final of the VIIIs as well. Third by a long way in the semi. The VIII never feels good to row but this was worse than usual. There was a strong headwind and, in a way only Nottingham can provide, huge waves (breaking over the bows type high). Every stroke was an effort on the recovery as well as the drive and most of it was spent with dieing shoulders trying not to crab. Will be hard to get back to being close for the final; the winners finished about 26 seconds ahead of us.
17:50. All to play for.
19:04. So we failed in the final. What of it. On the plus side it was a much better row than the semi. The conditions had improved and we found a better rhythm. We held them all off the start and were ahead of a couple of crews until somewhere around 500-750m in when they slowly moved through us. From there I think the general attitude in the boat was one of “let’s just get it home”. Conditions got worse again at around 1200m causing blades to clip the water on the recovery and the odd sensation of taking the catch and finding no water under your blade.
19:40. Now on the way back only 15 hours after starting the day. It’s been a damn good day really. Still sinking in that we won our IM2 final. Feels good finishing ahead for once and being close to the other crews makes it even better. Winning by a length or two (as we did in our heat at Bedford last week) doesn’t have the same effect. It is also reassuring to know that we (at least the four that were in our boat) can actually row. It gets a bit demoralising in the eight to do badly (or below expectations) every week and being IM2 category actually makes it a competitive enough event to be proud of.